Well, one of my hopes and dreams over the past year was finally shot down on Tuesday. Ben Sheets one of my all-time favorite Brewers and a stud ace (when healthy) signed a 1 year $10 mill deal with the Oakland Athletics. Now, I knew there was very little chance that the Brewers would resign Sheets after he declined salary arbitration after the 2008 season, but I always had that hope that Doug Melvin would sign him to a low risk/high reward incentive laden deal. Now the hope is gone and I realized it after I saw Sheets wearing that A's jersey and cap at his press conference. Part of me thinks that some kind of bridge was burned between Sheets and the Brewers brass when they didn't offer him an extension before the 2008 season.
If you are out at your favorite local pub in Wisconsin talking sports with your buddies and Sheets name comes up, expect two main responses. 1) “Screw Sheets, he sucks. He was always hurt and he's a big wussy who couldn't ever pitch through injuries.” 2) “Yeah, Sheets has had his issues with injuries, but when he is healthy he is as good as any pitcher in baseball. And because of that I would love for him to come back to Milwaukee. Do you not remember how good he was/is?” You can put me in the camp of response #2. Through all of Ben's injuries, I always stuck up for him. The stats and performances don't lie. He is one of the best, if not the best pitcher in Brewers history.
In his eight seasons in Milwaukee Ben complied a 86-83 record, 3.72 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 1206 K's (Club Record) and 313 BB. During that span he also made the All-Star team four times and in the 2004 season he had an 18 strikeout game against the Atlanta Braves. In that 2004 season, had he had more wins he probably would have won the NL Cy Young. He was so incredibly dominate that season. 12-14 record (which cost him the Cy Young, the team was not very good), 2.70 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 264 K's to only 32 BB's, 237 innings and 5 complete games. Probably the best single season for a Brewers pitcher in history.
Of course, everyone knows about Ben's injury plagued 2005, 2006 and 2007 seasons (weird injuries like an inner ear infection, blisters and groin) that hurt himself and the Brewers. Especially that 2007 Brewers team that almost won the NL Central. Had Sheets been healthy, who knows. Then we have the 2008 season, Ben's last as a Brewer. He pitched 198 innings, which was his most since his magical 2004 season. But he missed most of September during the stretch run with an elbow injury and was not able to pitch in the playoffs, which caused the Brewers to throw Jeff Suppan in the pivotal game 4.
Following the 2008 season Ben became a free agent. The Brewers offered him a $12 mill 1 year deal in arbitration. Ben declined, which ended up being great for the Brewers since Sheets did not throw a single pitch in the 08'. He had surgery on the elbow and spent all year rehabilitating. He worked out for scouts last week in Louisiana, looked real good, signed with Oakland Tuesday and that is all she wrote. I wish Ben the best in Oakland, hope he has an awesome year and earns a multi year deal next season. Thanks for the memories Ben. Some day you will be on the Brewers Walk of Fame outside Miller Park. I have no doubt.